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Spring 2001
CULTURE CLASH
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As traditional societies strain under the weight of the new global economy, artists too often find that their creativity is marginalized.
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Photography by Amanda Friedman

Judy Mitoma In November, Judy Mitoma '70, M.A. '75, director of the Center for Intercultural Performance in the Department of World Arts and Cultures, took part in a White House Conference on Culture and Diplomacy. The conference, convened by President Clinton, Hillary Clinton and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, brought together diplomats, artists, scholars and representatives from the private and nonprofit sectors to talk about the critical role of culture in the formulation and conduct of foreign policy in this era of globalization.

Among the panelists were His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims; Nigerian writer and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka; Italian Minister of Culture Giovanna Melandri; former Fulbright scholar and Poet Laureate Rita Dove; world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma; and Joan Spero, president of the Doris Duke Foundation and a former State Department official. Professor Mitoma spoke with Carolyn Campbell, director of communications in the School of the Arts and Architecture.

Q: What are the most pressing problems facing artists worldwide?

A: Traditional cultures around the world are in a state of crisis. Artists find themselves under enormous economic and political pressure. Part of this can be explained by political instability or the shift from government sponsorship to a market economy. So many highly trained artists, writers and philosophers find that their work falls outside these global economies. They get little support and recognition. In their search for work, regrettably, many turn to the tourist industry. Viewed as symbols of culture, their work is often presented as decorative and entertaining diversions. Most threatening of all, new generations see no viable future in working in the arts or preserving their cultural heritage. The libraries are on fire; more people need to notice.

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